NEW YORK -- The trial of Bernhard Goetz is over and the City of New York has been found guilty.
The shame of this judgment is all our own and none of it belongs to these jurors. They heard the case for seven weeks and sought its meaning through upwards of 27 hours of deliberation, and their collective conscience has now impelled them to define the issue in Goetz' own terms and all but announce that law and justice have ceased to breathe as realities in this city.
There is about this verdict something of the terrible finality of an autopsy report. These 12 painstaking people have decided that Goetz did what he had to do, and they could not have agreed essentially to acquit him if they had not agreed to condemn the civilization they had so dutifully represented.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Stephen Crane's courtroom was strangely quiet while foreman James Hurley ran through his successions of ''Not Guilty'' Tuesday. There were no signs or sounds of joy, not even and in fact conspicuously not at all from Goetz himself, and the only rustling was an occasional gasp of surprise when some charge in the indictment that had seemed weighted with peril for Goetz slipped harmlessly by.
Assistant District Attorney Gregory Waples could not be counted among the surprised. One fellow prosecutor reported that Waples had returned from his final summation last week to say that two or three of the jurors had looked at him with a disbelief barely short of mockery at points in the four hours he had used up his formidable skills on a cause he could feel slip a little further away with each passing minute.
''I've never seen that in a jury before,'' Waples said. ''Three of them almost laughing and the rest stone-faced.''
He had been preaching a faith in a church emptied of the faithful and upholding the ideal of order for judges driven by the disorders in the streets to think it just a myth.
It is unlikely that these jurors mistook Goetz for a hero; seven weeks in his presence could not have encouraged that image. He himself had been the first to speak of himself as a pathetic figure, and even this day of his gloomy triumph can hardly inspire him to revise that self-assessment.
But then all the actors in this dreadful story are pathetic creatures. Each of them incarnates what can become of people when they are treated as mere trash day after day. All Goetz did was rise up in the wrath, holy, unholy or a bit of both, of his grievance at being treated like trash. And so he shot. And the four young men he shot had been trashed by society, and all they had learned to do was to trash society.
And Darrell Cabey will never walk again and will spend such life as he has sliding in and out of his consciousness of reality. To think of him is to be grateful to this jury. When it acquitted Goetz, it pronounced all of us accomplice to his acts; we had done what we could to disable Darrell Cabey, and Goetz finished the job. He is only the pitiable instrument of a destiny appointed by our own pitiless indifference to the fate of the young and the peace of the city.
Gregory Waples observed that he is assigned next to prosecuting two off-duty transit cops who got into a quarrel with four dope dealers and are accused of shooting one of them in the leg and running away. And so once more Waples will have to argue the dignity of law and order before jurymen imbued with the daily consciousness of its degradation.
All the same even a dope dealer has his rights, and so did Darrell Cabey, who was barely more than a child however close to ruin he may already have been. Turn your back on the worst and you will in time turn your back on everyone. We just about have. For what else has the Goetz jury said to us except that the time is ripe and rotten ripe to square our shoulders, look straight at the huge rock that lies at the bottom of the hill and all together try to push it up the slippery slope back to the top. There is not much hope we will.